Summary of Jan Zawadzki's life story
Jan Zawadzki was born in eastern Poland near the Russian border in 1918 and, along with three sisters and a brother, he worked on his father’s farm, helping with the ploughing using heavy Punch horses. When the Russians occupied Poland in 1939 he was registered into and spent four and one half years in the Red Army under the threat that if he tried to escape he would be shot or his family sent to Siberia.
He was in the artillery and an anti-aircraft division and life was hard. At times he cried under the stress and when he thought about his home and parents. Between 1940 and 1941 he was moved from Stalingrad to Leningrad. The winters were very severe with snow day and night and it was so cold that his lips cracked and bled.
He came face-to-face with the German Army near Leningrad. Food was scarce; sometimes they would be four days without food but they had deliveries of hot soup brought by a horse and sled. Often they had to eat snow to fill up their stomachs and the bread was frozen so hard it was almost impossible to eat.
There were many other Poles in the same situation as Jan but, because he could speak some Russian, he was used as a translator. He answered the call of General Anders to join the British war effort and travelled to Libya and the Middle East and joined the 8th Army in 1941-1942 and spent a considerable time training with tanks in readiness for battles ahead. Then the call came for him to fight at Monte Cassino and the ship he was on came under heavy German gunfire but they were not hit.
The fighting at Monte Cassino was intense and there was a great loss of life. After the battle was won, Jan went on to England, arriving in 1946 in west London and then moved to Norfolk in 1948. He worked as a supervisor in an army resettlement camp, trying to find civilian jobs for the ex-soldiers. In turn he found a job as a supervisor at Earsham Hall in Suffolk. He married his wife Grace in 1958 and they had a son, Paul, in 1961.
He then worked independently on a fruit farm growing apples where he worked for 34 years, retiring in 1983. He feels he had a long and good life and his years in retirement have been the happiest of his life.